Financial advisors just starting a firm or established FAs in need of help navigating a highly competitive business have a useful tool with the new book, Tested in the Trenches: A 9-Step Plan for Success as a New-Era Advisor, by Ron Carson and Steve Sanduski.

"The advisor's world has changed significantly since 2005, but have you changed? This new version will show you how to thrive in our new era of change and uncertainty,'' writes Carson in this second version of the book. The first version was published in 2005.

Carson is founder and CEO of Carson Wealth Management Group, Omaha, Neb., which has $3.2 billion under advisement. He also founded Peak Advisor Alliance, a coaching program for financial advisors. Sanduski, an author and speaker, is co-creator of the coaching program and a veteran of the financial services industry.

In exhaustive and painstaking detail over nine chapters, Carson and Sanduski present a plan for success that hinges on first knowing why you want to be a successful financial advisor.

"With a strong 'why,' anything is possible,'' they write. Readers begin by completing the trademarked Blueprinting Process, which helps you discover how you can  "live your life by design, not default.'' This blueprinting is the first of nine Tested in the Trenches (TNT) steps. 

At  48 pages, the chapter "Human Capital'' is the longest in the book. The writers give you numerous tips on hiring and keeping qualified staff.  In order to attract and retain high-net-worth clients, and have a great quality of life, they say, you must have "A+ and A staff members.''

They offer compensation systems for offices of up to and more than 10 employees, and provide advice on employee reviews, bonus programs, medical benefits, job descriptions and how to search for, screen and interview candidates (with 44 possible interview questions).

A chapter called "Systemization" shows you how to "perform an activity according to a certain standard'' and involves prospects and referrals, new clients, transfers, trading, client service, updates, client appreciation, office procedures and human resources.

Productivity is best achieved, the authors contend, when you learn how best to spend your time. The Peak Alliance program has created "100 Items to Delegate,'' freeing you to pursue and attend to HNW clients.

The authors even include tips on how to get a good night's sleep, a critical component of being energetic and sharp a work.

"The choppy financial markets since 2000 have made clients realize that planning (for investment management) is more important than ever,'' they write, and they provide a minutely detailed approach to planning, which includes an initial client meeting, data gathering, team tasks, a client presentation meeting and other meetings. To develop a plan for clients, Carson Wealth charges a minimum fee of $3,500 and 10 basis points of their total assets. Carson says the expense has paid off by increasing assets for clients.

No firm can make it on numbers alone, so stand out from the crowd, the authors advise in the chapter called "Branding." You can do this by creating values that define you, including the interesting concept of intimacy with clients: telephone them birthday greetings, send out cards on weddings, anniversaries and retirements. Promote your brand  through conventional and new social media. The authors also show you how to project your best presence with tips on how to dress, speak and even how to smile!

The second longest chapter is called "Love Affair Marketing." "What's the difference between an account and a relationship?'' the authors ask. "Make clients and prospects feel the love. If you lined up all your clients in a row, would you be able to greet each of them by their first name? Would you feel comfortable hugging them?''

By the time you've reached chapter nine, you'll have the authors' insights into how to get your current clients to send you referrals; how to present educational and social events for clients; how to use technology to get your message out; how to write a monthly client newsletter, and how to gracefully extract e-mail addresses from guests for new business prospects at a dinner party.

A final bit of advice from the authors: "Read at least 12 books a year.''

"Tested in the Trenches,'' a comprehensive book based on Carson's successful experience, would seem to deserve a place on your list.

Tested in the Trenches: A 9-Step Plan for Success as a New-Era Advisor. $55. Peak Alliance Publishing. 335  pages.